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Better Work Initiative (2017)

Better Work mobilizes global brands, governments, factory owners and workers to improve garment factory working conditions, including access to adequate water for health and sanitation.

Overview

The Better Work programme is a joint initiative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

This initiative aims to improve working conditions and promote competitiveness in global garment supply chains.

Better Work mobilizes global brands, governments, factory owners and workers to improve garment factory working conditions, increase competitiveness and create a fairer, more prosperous world.

The programme is active in more than 1,300 factories across the world, creating lasting, positive change, changing attitudes and behavior through assessments, advisory services, training and research.

  • Country(ies) where the intervention is taking place: Global.
  • Lead Organization: International Labour Office (ILO).
  • Who is involved?: Workers and their employers in 1,300 garment factories in 7 countries.
  • Objectives: Improving WASH at the workplace for workers by improving company-internal Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and sustainability standards.
  • Target markets: Apparel/Footwear.
  • Workplace Setting: Factory.
  • Scope of intervention: Factory-level intervention to assess compliance with labour standards (including OSH/WASH), and advisory services to improve compliance and worker-manager dialogue on key issues. Influencing work at national and global levels through data gathered and lessons learned.
  • Which elements of WASH are covered?: All.
  • Which elements of the Framework for Business Action on WASH are covered?: Taking action.
  • Indicators/metrics that have been developed to track progress: 
    • From Compliance Assessment Tool:
      • Does the employer provide workers enough free safe drinking water?
      • Does the workplace have adequate accessible toilets?
      • Does the workplace have adequate hand washing facilities and adequate soap?
      • Related, and demonstrating root cause analysis: Has the employer set up a properly functioning Unit in charge of OSH and/or Labour Protection Council?
    • From independent impact assessment surveys (confidential surveys among workers):
      • How often do you get a drink of water while you are at work?
      • How often do you experience severe thirst?
      • How satisfied are you with the quality and availability of drinking water in your factory? Very satisfied – not satisfied at all
      • Over the last year, have you been denied permission to use the factory toilet during work hours?
      • How satisfied are you with the toilet facilities in your factory?
      • Have you or someone you know been punished in the last month for the following reasons? (asking for water/ asking to use the toilet)

The evaluation process

Compliance assessments carried out in-house by Better Work;

Independent impact assessment carried out by contracted third-party research partners (university-based).

Government partners and/or the local policy environment

Each country programme in Better Work is advised by a tripartite PAC that includes representatives from the national government (usually the Ministry of Labour) and national-level employers’ and workers’ organizations/trade unions, representing the sector or industry. The presence of the government in the governance structure of all BW country programmes sets it apart from other, more private regimes, where such formalized interaction is often absent.

In Indonesia, the PAC includes representatives of the Ministries of Trade, Industry, and Manpower and Transmigration, APINDO (employers’ organization) and four key national and sectoral trade unions. BWI is represented by three senior staff members, including the BWI programme manager. The PAC guides the implementation of BWI programming while also helping to monitor and evaluate BWI’s implementation against its work plan.

BWI works closely with a number of stakeholders, including governments, business associations, workers and their representative unions, and global apparel buyers. In Indonesia, these include the Indonesian Ministry of Manpower (Ministry), the Indonesian Employers’ Association (APINDO), the Indonesian Textile Association (API), the Korean Garment Association (KOGA) and the four main union federations of the garment industry: Garteks, TSK Kalibata, TSK Pasar Minggu, and SPN.

Outcomes, successes and ongoing challenges

Relevant compliance trends (sample):

Better Work’s assessment data shows that WASH outcomes – access to free water, adequate hand washing + soap, and access to toilets improves over the course of several years’ engagement with Better Work, in some cases dramatically. Compliance with setting up an OSH committee also improves.

Relevant impact assessment Results:

More workers report more frequent access to water while at work. The proportion of workers who say they are able to get a drink of water “every two hours” increases more than two-fold – from 20 per cent of workers at baseline to 49 per cent of workers in the third annual survey.

Satisfaction with toilet facilities improved in Jordan – from 59 per cent at the baseline to 74 per cent in the latest survey of workers – as well as satisfaction with drinking water quality and availability – from 73 per cent to 86 per cent of workers reporting satisfaction.

Profitability finding in Vietnam shows that factories where workers have more satisfaction with workplace facilities – including satisfaction with toilet and water facilities – are more profitable firms. Up to 8% more profitable. Greater profitability found to be driven by higher per worker productivity.

Workers must perceive improvements in changes. Improvements perceived by managers or compliance assessments do not associated as closely with higher productivity.

While this does not establish that installing toilets means higher profitability automatically follows, it shows that investments in such conditions goes hand-in-hand with better performance.

Links to learn more

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